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Spotlight: Stage set for bitter stalemate on U.S. Capitol over police bill
From:Xinhua  |  2020-06-26 15:44

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WASHINGTON, June 25 (Xinhua) -- The Democratic-led House of Representatives on Thursday passed a sweeping police reform legislation in response to a national outcry against police brutality and racism, setting the stage for a bitter stalemate on U.S. Capitol since a Senate approval is widely not expected.

The bill was passed in a 236 to 181 vote. Democrats of all stripes united in the voting while three Republicans crossed party lines.

Titled George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020, the bill was named in honor of the 46-year-old black man who pleaded "I can't breathe" before dying in police custody in Minnesota on May 25. His death has prompted weeks of protests and civil unrest in at least 140 cities across the United States since then.

"Exactly one month ago, George Floyd spoke his final words 'I can't breathe' and changed the course of history," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday morning.

"With all of those people out protesting, this is not the time to do symbolism," said Democratic lawmaker Karen Bass, head of the Congressional Black Caucus and sponsor of the House bill, "We have to do substantive change."

The House legislation will ban chokeholds and no-knock warrants in federal drug cases, require federal police officers wear body and dashboard cameras, create a national registry of police misconduct and make lynching a federal hate crime for the first time. It will also make it easier to prosecute police misconduct and recover damages caused by law enforcement.

One area that the bill stops short of addressing directly is defunding police departments, a demand of the recent protests that has gained traction nationwide.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already shot down the House's bill, calling it overreach and said it will not advance in the Senate, local media reported.

One day earlier, Senate Democrats blocked a competing Republican bill from advancing on a key procedural vote, describing the GOP version as an insufficient and irredeemably flawed answer to the problem of systemic racism in law enforcement and asking for bipartisan talks on the issue.

In the Senate, Democrats called on Republicans to come back to the negotiating table to come up with a bipartisan solution that the upper chamber can then vote on, while Republican senators slammed Democrats for declining to even begin floor debate on the measure.

In a floor speech on Wednesday, McConnell accused Democrats of giving a "last-minute ultimatum" by turning "this routine step into a partisan impasse."

The Senate Republican bill requires additional disclosures about the use of force, codifies reporting requirements on the use of "no knock warrants," provides incentives for chokehold bans and makes lynching a federal crime.

Meanwhile, Democratic senators proposed banning chokeholds and no-knock warrants in federal drug cases, and limiting qualified immunity for police officers to make it easier to sue police. Both sides want to pass anti-lynching legislation and provide de-escalation training for police.

Earlier on Thursday, Tim Scott, the only black Republican senator, said on Fox News that Democrats' move to block the Senate Republican bill is "race politics at its worst," adding that Democrats were cocky ahead of November's general elections.

Despite nationwide calls for quick action to address police abuse and racism, the odds of finding a compromise may be slimmer than usual on Capitol Hill in a presidential election year, local analysts said.